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Thursday, December 8, 2016
Palestinian priest wins major peace prize
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¬†A Palestinian Catholic priest, Fr Elias Chacour, has been awarded the 2001 Buddhist Niwano Prize for 2001 for his work with Moslem, Jewish and Christian children. Fr Elias has been invited to a special ceremony in Tokyo on 10 May to collect his award. The prize, which is worth about £120,000, is given each year to individuals or institutions for outstanding work in the field of peace, reconciliation, interreligious dialogue, nonviolence and human rights. The Niwano Foundation was established in 1978 by Nikkyo Niwano, a Japanese Buddhist, who devoted his life to the cause of world peace, and was a pioneer in interreligious dialogue. The Niwano Foundation supports grants, research, lectures, symposiums and international exchanges. Fr Chacour was chosen from more than 1,000 candidates nominated by individuals and organisations representing 125 countries and several religions. On receiving the news, Fr Elias said: "I am both delighted and honoured. I accept this prestigious prize with gratitude. The Niwano Peace Foundation is a sign of hope for humanity." For more than 30 years, Fr Elias, 61, has worked for reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians in Israel. He is the founder of the Mar Elias educational centres, which teach about 4,000 students. The centres have been called 'oases' where young people, whether Christians, Jews or Muslims, can study and work with one another to build a common future. The institutions provide a meeting ground for practical training toward peaceful coexistence based on religious pluralism and dialogue. "International agreements are only signatures on pieces of paper. Through education, we want to reach agreement in the hearts of the younger generation, who are the leaders of tomorrow," Fr Elias said. Fr Elias was born in 1939 in Biram, a village in Upper Galilee, in Arab Palestine, to a Palestinian Christian family, members of the Melkite Catholic church. When he was eight, Elias and his family were evicted by Jewish immigrants and become refugees in their own homeland. Instead of growing up with a grudge, Elias understood the suffering of the Jews, who were victims of Nazi persecution. With Jewish friends he tried to break the cycle of suspicion and hatred, and work for reconciliation between the two peoples. He was ordained a priest in Nazareth in 1965. In 1982 he opened a Prophet Elias School in Ibillin in Lower Galilee. This was the beginning of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, which today include schools of all grades, as well as a Technical College, a regional teachers centre, and a centre for Religious Pluralism. Father Elias' book: 'Blood Brothers', published in 1982 has been translated into 28 languages. His 1992 book: "We Belong to the Land," on the power of faith, was translated into 11 languages. The Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland won the Niwano prize in 1997. Other winners include the Sant Egidio in Italy community in 1999 and Pastor Kang Won Yong from South Korea in 2000.
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